The Catamarqueño settlement of BELÉN is squeezed between the Sierra de Belén and the river of the same name. Olive groves and plantations of capsicum – paprika-producing peppers (pimentones) – stretch across the fertile valley to the south. Belén offers the area’s best accommodation and a couple of very decent restaurants, a handsome church and an interesting archeological museum, and it’s also a base for adventure tourism, including trekking and horseriding. Since Belén promotes itself as the Capital del Poncho you might like to visit the many excellent teleras, or textile workshops, dotted around the town; they also turn out beautiful blankets and sweaters made of llama, vicuña and sheep’s wool, mostly in natural colours. The wool is sometimes blended with walnut bark, to give the local cloth, known as belichas or belenistos, its typical rough texture.

As for festivals, every January 6 a pilgrimage procession clambers to a huge statue of the Virgen de Belén, overlooking the town from its high vantage point to the west, the Cerro de la Virgen.

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